No one knew this better than Oscar Pistorius during his murder trial. Nel had the Blade Runner in tears and often visibly desperate during his gruelling cross-examination on the events of Valentine’s Day 2013, when Pistorius shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Nel was like a dog with a bone and did not easily relent. He questioned Pistorius over a number of days and did not mince his words. “Why do you get emotional when I ask the hard questions,” Nel often asked Pistorius.
He also told a crying Pistorius that “Reeva is dead because of what you have done.”
Nel’s blazing guns often left Pistorius weary, especially when he told him to “take responsibility for the fact that he had killed Reeva”.
The packed court sat in shocked silence when Nel showed a picture of Reeva's gaping head wound, with brain matter clearly visible on TV screens around the courtroom.
Nel tried to force Pistorius to look at the pictures, but instead the murder accused broke down and cried.
During the first round of the trial a visibly irate Nel stormed out of court, stone faced, when Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide.
Nel refused to take this verdict lying down, and even though his arguments before the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein took half the time of that of defence advocate Barry Roux, Nel walked out the victor and got his murder conviction.
Round two did not go much better, when once again he stormed out of court after asking for a sentence of at least 15 years behind bars and receiving six years instead.
He once again turned to the Appeal Court to ask for a harsher sentence, but this round will now have to be fought by his colleagues who assisted him during the muchtalked-about trial.
Speaking to the media about his new position as head of a private prosecution unit on Tuesday, Nel said he had a lot of faith that his junior team would take the Pistorius matter to its end.
But Nel often also displayed a softer side, like when he hugged Reeva’s mother June Steenkamp after the SCA ruled that Pistorius was guilty of murder.
He also appeared to be a hit with women during the trial, with numerous female members in the public gallery saying they had taken time off work to see him in person.
Nel was always a man who sought justice without fear or favour, as displayed during his prosecution of former police commissioner Jackie Selebi.
Nel led the Scorpions Operation Bad Guys, which also saw him investigating the late mining magnate Brett Kebble.
It was not always easy times for him, as he was arrested in 2008 on bogus fraud charges while going after Selebi. Controversial advocate Nomgcobo Jiba was behind securing the arrest warrant against Nel.
While relentless in court, often described as worse than a terrier in his quest to find justice, he has not only won international awards in the prosecuting field, but also coaches young wrestlers.